It’s only seven in the morning, but the sun burns down with full power; roasting my bare head. It’s going to be tough today. The guides warned us. This is not just a hike, this is climbing volcano Maderas; serious climbing, where we will have to use our hands and feet. And it’s going to be hot, real hot.
So before we even have set off to climb this 1.400 meter high mountain, we already stop. Stop at a pulparia to get supplies. Well actually, to get water, lots and lots of water. 3 litres a person. It sounds to me as a ridiculous amount for eight hours of hiking, but I will soon find out it isn’t.
The second problem we have to solve is the dog of the hostel. The happy, little black one decided it wants to walk with us, but it doesn’t appear to be in shape for a hell of a walk. Although I’m doubting we are, we walk a few meters back to the hostel, open the gate and lock the dog behind it. Only to be joined by him a few meters further away, when he finds a way to jump the fence and join our company. Happily dancing around all of us, his tall waggling in the air, his tongue already dropped on his knees.
To prevent it will keep walking with us, one of the guides picks up a few tree branches and start chasing it away. The Nicaraguan way, not the nicest, but – although we feel sorry for the sweet dog – in this case it does the job and it’s better for the little animal.
With the six of us we start on the hike up. Through paddocks full of banana trees, with here and there a cow resting underneath, trying to get rid of the son. Slowly uphill over rougher terrain, with big rocks, surrounded by amazing high trees full of mono congo monkeys and beautiful birds I haven’t seen on the mainland with amazing feather toys, making them look like a Chinese art kite. Their sounds is a little opposite of their looks, because they sound like screaming cats.
The further we progress, the smaller the path becomes, the more trees are surrounding us, shading us from the burning sun. They do a good job, but they can’t prevent that sweat is running all over our bodies. I feel it in my neck, tickling down my shirt, I see streams of sweat making black and white colour patterns on my muddy legs. Even my wrists are soaking wet. Within a few kilometre I don’t have any dread peace of clothes left.
Foot wide trail
To compensate I keep drinking. The first litre is gone in no time, the second follows soon after. The trees are getting even more dense. Just before the path becomes nothing more than a foot wide trail, we cross a pipeline, bringing the water down from the volcano to the towns underneath. The cracks in the pipe are tied down with rubber band, to prevent the water spraying out. Simeon, our guide, unwraps the band and all of us stick our head in the gasping water to cool a bit of.
From here the track becomes steeper and steeper. Roots of trees form hurdles we have to climb over, fallen trees form hurdles we have to dug under. More and more often we have to use our hands to keep on going, dragging our bodies on the next patch of path.
Sweet is gushing down my back, like a waterfall. My heart is breathing like crazy, my lungs are spared as far open as possible. My mouth is gulping for air, like a goldfish for water. My shoes are totally unfit for this climb. They don’t have souls, are flat as hell. Nice for city asphalt, not suited for climbing volcanos, but they are the only ones I have. So I keep on walking, feeling every stone I go over pressing in my foot. My hamstrings start to complain. After a full day of AcroYoga, basing some pretty heavy guys they planned a day of rest, not a day of torture. My thighs agree. The wobble forward, pressured by my mind, not because they are having fun. I’m used to climb mountains, but that was always a combination of going up alternated by flat parts. This volcano knows no mercy here you go up and keep going up.
My eyes do have fun though. The trees around me keep changing. Every now and then the forest opens on one side, showing us a magnificent view over the volcano and over Ometepe. We can even see Santa Cruz, the little settlement that is going to be our next spot to stay.
Walking is history
With my heart beating like crazy, the fast guide in front of me and Sally a few meters behind me I go on. For this last part with the help of my hands. Walking is history now. We have to drag ourselves up, using the roots of trees to keep progressing.
When even my hands start to get tired, the trees open up. A small edge forms the last ‘bridge’ to the top. One misstep here, means falling a meter of hundred down. Carefully Sally and I cross over and look around us. There isn’t a lot to see; in the beginning. Just clouds. But when we sit down, to spoon out a can of tuna the clouds open up, giving us a stunning few over Lake Nicaragua, over Ometepe, making all the suffering worth it.
The way back I feel like a monkey, swinging myself down from tree to tree. Holding on for support, sliding a bit and finging a new tree to swing myself around the corner. My last liter of water is gone. The forest opens again, the sun burns my head, arms. Our pace is high, because we know where we want to get. After two hours it’s there; straight in front of us. The point where we started, the point we wanted to return to: Lake Nicaragua. Quickly we take of our shoes, run over the jetty and with a big splash we jump into the lake. Cooling of from this amazing trip.